Silence (2016) Rated R

Two Portugese Jesuit priests go to Japan in search of their missing mentor during the mid 1600’s. Starring Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, Issei Ogata, Yosuke Kubozuka.

With hauntingly beautiful cinematography and a deliberate pace, director Martin Scorcese crafts a compelling picture of Catholicism and the struggle to spread the gospel in 17th century Japan. Neeson plays Father Ferreira, who was last heard of in a letter dated 15 years prior, during a particularly severe time of persecution for the Catholic countrymen and missionaries of Japan. Rumor has it that he apostatized and is living as a Buddhist with a Japanese wife and children. His two proteges, Father Rodrigues and Father Garupe, cannot accept this as true and feel called by God to go in search of their mentor.

The exquisite beauty of Japan is captured throughout the film, as is the horrific means of torture (very similar to that of current-day ISIS) and abject poverty the Japanese Christians faced during this time. We hear most of the story through the inner thoughts of Father Rodriguez, whose faith is energized by his encounters with the devoted peasants.  However, he also faces periods of doubt and confusion and even brief bouts of near insanity as he comes to terms with the reality of the persecution inflicted by the Inquisitor. His experience is designed to mirror that of Christ Himself (right down to the loose, wavy brown hair), especially in regard to his relationship with one of the more troubling peasants, Kichijiro.

At first, I wasn’t too sure about Garfield and Driver; I worried they would come off as too young, too trite in their portrayal.  But Garfield was exceptional, embodying every nuance of his character in both joy and compassion, personal anguish and stoicism, contentment and hysteria. Driver had a more limited role, but filled it capably. Only Neeson lacked the essence of his character. All the more stellar, though, were Ogata as the Inquisitor and Kubozuka as Kichijiro.

There is much to be learned about true faith and sacrifice and about grace and forgiveness in this film. It is a heavy, honest, and thought-provoking film which causes one to ponder the depth of one’s own belief and to grow in compassion for the persecuted believers around the world.  An all-around excellent film, although not for the faint of heart, I highly recommend Silence.

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